In the course of the years of their waning lives, former founding fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson agreed to reconcile their political differences that had over the years put them at opposing sides with respect to their both political and ideological philosophies. One of the main objectives behind this settling of their differences was in order to settle their differences regarding the events that led to the American Revolution. The underlying facts point out that Adams realized that the process of transforming the American Revolution into history was solely dependent on selective events and heroes that made this dream come true for most Americans. Apparently, the independence that the American people so much cherish today was achieved courtesy of relentless efforts by a few individual who gave their life to make the independence dream come true.
Let’s first try to find out what happened to the five men who signed the declaration of independence. It is told that five of the men were captured by the British in the course of the revolutionary war. One of the men died while the rest were taken into custody not for being signatories of the declaration of independence but rather for actively participating in military operations against the British. Almost similar fates befell the rest of the signatories with most of them ending up either in custody or death in almost unclear circumstances. However, no proper records have been produced to prove the validity of this information with different reports giving contradictory information with respect to the fate of the said signatories.
In the U.S. today, most people enjoy some of the efforts laid by the founding fathers of the nation. One such foundation is the freedom of speech. “Freedom of speech in the U.S. is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws, with the exception of obscenity, defamation, incitement to riot, and fighting words”(Alison, 1991). During the colonial period, the colonies originally had different interpretation and view regarding freedom of speech and its application. Most of the restrictions with respect to the freedom of speech during this colonial period were tilted towards controls that outlawed or otherwise censored speech that was considered blasphemous in a religious sense. A practical example of this is perhaps the Massachusetts law that punished individuals who denied the immortality of the soul. In the year 1612, the governor of Virginia at the time declared capital punishment to people who dared to deny the Trinity under Virginia's Laws Divine, Moral and Martial. This law also outlawed blasphemy, defamation of both ministers and royalties and the use of disgraceful words.
In the year 1780 which was the period after the American Revolutionary War, the debate regarding the new constitution led to fallout between the federalists and the anti-federalists. Federalists, such as Alexander Hamilton were in favor of a strong federal government while on the other hand; anti-federalists such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry were for the idea of a weaker federal government. The anti-federalists continued to show their concerns during and after the constitution ramification indicating that the constitution placed too much power in the hands of the federal government. The adoption of the first amendment and the Bill of Rights was seen as a move by the government to try and reduce the level of concern with regards to the balance of power. The first amendment states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances (the United States of America’s Constitution)
Benjamin Franklin one of the founding fathers of the American nation had always championed for freedom in its entire context. At one particular instance, Franklin said that without the freedom of though, there would be no such thing as freedom. He went further to state that freedom is a basic right for every individual in the society and no single person should try to control the fundamental rights of another. In this context, modern America has been much of its freedom policies in this regards. Franklin also single out the freedom of speech as going hand in hand with the security of property. This is considered as the only way to bring a socially interactive nation that understands justice and democracy in its overall context. The definition of the government by Franklin is that the government is the trustee of the people in the context that it should put public affairs in the frontline of its agenda rather than running public operations in a selfish manner.
During the earlier days in the American society, The Supreme Court never ruled on the constitutionality of any federal law regarding the Free Speech Clause until the 20th century despite being various objection form anti-federalists like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Some of the early acts created such as the Espionage Act of 1917 stated that a person was liable to punishment of not less than twenty years in federal custody in the occurrence of "insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States. This was at a time that much of the printed media experienced numerous censors where there were numerous convictions of individuals found to be going against some of the laws that restricted the freedom of speech and expression. There were frequent trials regarding people who had tried to express their ideas either verbally on through written media where some of the messages contained were found to be against not only the Espionage Act but other acts that restricted the freedom of speech and expression.
So much has changed since then in the U.S. In the modern American society amidst calls for rights to speech and expression, the situation has gone up to an extent where free speech zones are set for political activists and other interested parties exercise their freedom of speech. This is seen as a major step towards the set goals by most founding fathers of the nation with respect to individual rights. This implies that compliance to such an organized system allows the people voice their concerns in an orderly and organized manner instead of being disorderly and acting in a violent manner. Despite the fact that the constitution allows for the freedom of speech and expression, this should not be carried out in a manner that affects the outstanding occurrences. Person found to violate this are hence liable to prosecution for disorderly conduct and abuse of the constitutional rights. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the society has made tremendous developments regarding the foundations laid out by the founders of the nation and made a reality the American dream.
George Washington directly related freedom of speech to the state of democracy in a nation. Going by this, it is assumed that the concept of democracy is that of self-government by the people. This implies that for such a system to work effectively and efficiently, there must be a free flow of information and ideas. “ democracy will not be true to its essential ideal if those in power are able to manipulate the electorate by withholding information and stifling criticism”(George Washington). George Washington in his quest for freedom of speech also stated that freedom of speech creates a balance between stability and change. In addition to this, freedom of speech is seen to act as a valve to let off some of the steam or pressure when the people might be otherwise bent on revolution or rebellion. According to Lillback, It is hence more appropriate for leaders to adopt the principle of open discussion as a method of achieving a moral adaptable and at the same time more stable community, of maintaining the precarious balance between healthy cleavage and necessary consensus (Lillback, 2006)
If the former leaders of America were here today, they would experience a wave of change with respect to some of the perceived not so important issues facing the society. Currently, freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Most of them would be satisfied with the progress the modern society has made in trying to make freedom of speech and expression a fundamental and core guiding factor of the constitution. This is perhaps why modern world is free of constant chaos and revolutions as compared to the old times. At one time, George Washington said that if the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. This is directly related to the current occurrences of dictatorship in most nations. However, people, are more and more becoming aware of the rights and to the extent that the constitution protects them. The situation as it is currently is not disappointing in the strive to achieve freedom of speech and even if there is still more challenges in the future, the American society is halfway in the realization of the American dream as laid out by the nation’s founding fathers.